What is the significance of the street revival meeting in "Sonny's Blues"?

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The street revival is a significant episode in James Baldwin's story entitled "Sonny's Blues" because the brother takes notice of something in Sonny.

As the brother looks across the street where a street revival is taking place, he notices that the faces of those listening have changed from sullen and belligerent to a look "as though they were fleeing back to their first condition, while dreaming of their last." Then he sees his brother Sonny standing very still and smiling. It is as he watches Sonny that the brother notices the musical walk of Sonny, commenting, "He has a slow, loping walk, something like the way Harlem hipsters walk."

This is a turning point in the narrative because the brother discovers what soothes Sonny's soul. When Sonny enters the apartment, his brother offers him a beer and he and Sonny talk without rancor. In fact, Sonny invites his brother to accompany him to a "joint in the Village" where he is going to play the piano; the brother accepts. Later, as the brother sits in the dark watching and listening to Sonny and the others play, he notices the atmosphere of the room change. The narrator/brother declares that when music enters one's soul, this melodious language of the inner person finds "order . . . as it hits the air." The music is solace for the suffering in the man. His brother hears this music from Sonny's soul and he looks toward the brother and they nod at each other in understanding.

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Let us remember that the street revivial meeting occurs whilst Sonny is living with his brother, the narrator, who is becoming more and more suspicious of Sonny's behaviour and wants to search his room to see if he can find any evidence of drugs. As he thinks about these things, he ntoices that there is an "old-fashioned revival meeting" going on opposite his house. As the narrator comments, this was nothing new, and the words of the song the people sing have been heard by everyone many times before. There was nothing special about those who were holding the revival. The significance of this revival meeting seems to lie in the profound impact that the music has on those around them:

As the singing filled the air the watching, listening faces underwent a change, the eyes focusing on something within; the music seemed to soothe a poison out of them; and time seemed, nearly, to fall away from the sullen, belligerent, battered faces, as though they were fleeing back to their first condition, while dreaming of their last.

It is important to focus on this quote and the way that it presents music as a force that is capable, albeit briefly, of saving people from their everyday problems and helping them to become happier. This of course foreshadows the concert at the end of this incredible story where the narrator hears his brother play for the first time and understands the power of music and how his brother has been able to find salvation from his problems through it.

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